- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2002

CARLISLE, Pa. The Washington Redskins signed defensive tackle Daryl Gardener to a one-year, $775,000 deal plus $1million in incentives yesterday, strengthening the weakest unit on a strong defense.
The former Miami Dolphins standout chose to accept an incentive-laden contract with the Redskins instead of a similar deal with the Denver Broncos because the Redskins offered him a chance to start. Several other teams also were interested in signing Gardener.
"The decision was based on more than economic reasons," said Neil Schwartz, Gardener's agent.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Gardener will start at defensive tackle alongside Dan Wilkinson, with 18-year veteran Bruce Smith and Renaldo Wynn at the ends. The Redskins expect Gardener to strengthen the weakest unit on what appears to be a tough defense built around linebackers LaVar Arrington, Jeremiah Trotter and Jessie Armstead and young cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Fred Smoot.
Gardener won't join the Redskins until Monday, when the team returns to training camp from its preseason opener Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers in Osaka, Japan. However, Redskins players and coaches already were buzzing about the signing yesterday.
"Congratulations to me," defensive line coach Ricky Hunley said. "We can mix him with Dan and get a lot of push inside. That frees your linebackers."
Said Wynn: "Daryl's going to take up a lot of bodies in the middle here to let the linebackers run around and make plays. It's going to free somebody up."
Gardener was released by the Dolphins on July19 after a dispute with coach Dave Wannstedt about his offseason workout habits and about a position change to end from tackle. Gardener would have earned $5.3million this season with the Dolphins.
The signing caused some internal dispute among the Redskins because of Gardener's problems with the Dolphins and because he had two back surgeries in two seasons, the most recent of which forced him to miss the final eight games of last season.
Still, the coaches liked Gardner's workout Thursday.
"Daryl wants a chance," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "He has something to prove. When you put enough people in the huddle with something to prove, you have a chance to be pretty good."
Gardener is expected to start at right tackle over Santana Dotson and Donovan Arp. The added depth Gardener provides should allow Wilkinson more rest during games. All four probably will play regularly, with Wynn also playing tackle in some passing situations.
Notes Guard Kipp Vickers will play against the 49ers, though he missed practice for the second straight day because of a swollen knee. Defensive end Otis Leverette left practice with a twisted knee. His status for traveling to Osaka was undecided pending MRI results. Smith (knee), guard David Loverne (elbow), Dotson and offensive tackle Wayne Smith (hip) will remain to rehabilitate injuries.



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